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Top 10 Kevin Spacey Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Jordan Ruimy. Good guy or bad, this is one unpredictable and unconventional actor. With his dramatic acting chops, Kevin Spacey has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with, winning a Best Acting Oscar for “American Beauty” and a Best Supporting Actor award for “The Usual Suspects.” But, he’s also got a talent for comedy, proving that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. In this video,, and today we’re counting down our picks for Kevin Spacey’s top 10 performances. Special thanks to our users sarahjessicaparkerth, krokar94, Malcolm Lim, Kevp14, amberloren, Travonte Towson, tom dray, Andrew A. Dennison, Koendownie1, UnkeptMoss328, EdWebb63, antonius1903, srgrorarzr, Keith Egan and nathleen holt for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Jordan Ruimy.

Top 10 Kevin Spacey Performances

Good guy or bad, this is one unpredictable and unconventional actor. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for Kevin Spacey’s top 10 performances.

#10: Lt. Chris Sabian
“The Negotiator” (1998)

Spacey doesn’t spend the majority of his time making Hollywood blockbusters; but when he does it, he does it well. In this formulaic but engaging action thriller, he’s a Chicago hostage negotiator locked in a battle of wits with fellow negotiator Danny Roman, played by Samuel L. Jackson. This is one case where the actors make the movie: whether in the action sequences or the quiet moments in between, the chemistry between Spacey and Jackson ensures this one is well worth the price of admission.

#9: Eugene Simonet
“Pay It Forward” (2000)

An inspirational, yet not particularly nice, Nevada teacher gives his students a not-so-simple assignment: come up with an idea that’ll improve the world. Damaged on the inside and the outside, Spacey plays Mr. Simonet with all the hurt and vulnerability befitting of such a character, who’s stuck in a rut with seemingly no way out. It’s his friendship with his student, Hayley Joel Osment, and his awkward romance with the equally damaged Helen Hunt that bring about the best moments in this emotionally-draining film.

#8: Bobby Darin
“Beyond the Sea” (2004)

Though it was met with polite applause from critics, this biopic was a passion project for Spacey, and you can see that in every frame. Sometimes paralleling his own story, Spacey portrays Darin through his short life and career, his successes and his failures. He also worked as co-writer, director and co-producer on the film, but his most surprising contribution may be his singing voice – which is both fantastic and very similar to Darin’s. The movie itself may have its missteps, but Spacey’s performance is always wonderful.

#7: Lloyd Chasseur
“The Ref” (1994)

Denis Leary’s bumbling, clumsy criminal doesn’t know what he’s in for when he takes this duo hostage. Spacey plays one-half of this bitter couple, who are on their way home from a failed marriage counseling session, and who are heavyweights when it comes to doling out insults. With his acerbic wit and fantastic comedic timing, Spacey and his wife, played by Judy Davis, spit out abuse of the highest order. With this film’s expert mix of comedy and drama, it’s a wonder it didn’t do better at the box-office.

#6: John Doe
“Se7en” (1995)

He’s a dark shadow over the entire film, but Spacey only shows up near the end of this David Fincher psychological thriller. But, he completely owns every scene he’s in. As the serial killer hunted by detectives Mills and Somerset, Spacey is a calm and menacing psychopath who projects an air of self-righteousness and arrogance, and a personality so twisted and complex you’re never certain what’s on his mind. Spacey’s depiction of pure evil will haunt you long after the film is over.

#5: Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes
“L.A. Confidential” (1997)

Channeling Dean Martin on his director’s advice, Spacey portrays Vincennes as a swaggering, cocky, too-big-for-his-britches guy who ain’t the most honest cop on the block. He cares more about Hollywood glamor, his own reputation and his TV show than he does about solving real cases. But, that changes when one of his actor friends is murdered. Soon enough Vincennes is putting his nose to the grindstone to crack the case. Complex, layered, and ever evolving, this Spacey performance will have you questioning things to the very end.

#4: Buddy Ackerman
“Swimming with Sharks” (1994)

Need an actor to portray a bastard of a boss? Hire Kevin Spacey. Though he later reprised this type of role in “Horrible Bosses,” Spacey is at his sadistic best as Buddy Ackerman, a movie big shot and boss from hell. One of Spacey’s most devilish creations, Buddy is a perfect fit for the actor since he allows him to mix wit and scathing humor as he targets a young writer with consistent humiliation. However, when Ackerman finally reveals his vulnerability, we see layers we never expected.

#3: Francis “Frank” Underwood
“House of Cards” (2013-)

Allowing Spacey to turn on a dime from sickly sweet to cold as ice, Frank Underwood is a United States politician with grand plans to seek the highest office in the land – and he never misses an opportunity to tell us his plans directly. With enough Southern charm to win over almost anyone, and enough cunning to beat anyone at politics, Underwood is what we’ve come to expect from a standout Spacey role: Witty, power-hungry, narcissistic and driven, and for that, the actor earned a Golden Globe nod.

#2: Roger “Verbal” Kint
“The Usual Suspects” (1995)

Deservedly winning Spacey his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is this suspicious but seemingly naïve and innocent con artist who suffers from cerebral palsy. Laying the groundwork for the film, Spacey uses his interrogation by police to narrate the story of the legendary, faceless criminal mastermind Keyser Söze and a drug deal gone spectacularly wrong during. Though he’s shifty and spineless, Verbal is another layered character in Spacey’s arsenal – a fast-talker and low-man on the totem pole, but one with more to him than meets the eye.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- prot / Robert Porter “K-PAX” (2001)
- David Gale “The Life of David Gale” (2003)
- John Williamson “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)
- Jim Williams “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (1997)

#1: Lester Burnham
“American Beauty” (1999)

Though he was almost dumped for a bigger name, Spacey surprised everyone with his portrayal of this spectacular mid-life crisis – and won the Oscar for Best Actor. Playing a middle-aged man who hates his job, whose wife is cheating, and who’s infatuated with his daughter’s friend, Spacey goes on a journey of self-discovery, transforming from a suburban loser to a man in charge. Playing the part with kindness, intelligence and even some rebellion, Spacey ensured this funny and sad performance was a high point in his illustrious career.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite Kevin Spacey performance? For more Movie Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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